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October 7, 2013

Registrars push back at proposed school voting ban

PEABODY — The city’s Board of Registrars is willing to discuss meeting partway in response to a School Committee campaign to end voting in the schools. But in a letter from Chairperson Judith Blodgett, the board rejected the idea that voting should be banned altogether from school buildings.

“The Board feels that a relocation effort of this magnitude is an impractical solution to the safety concerns raised by the School Committee,” wrote Blodgett, wife of District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. “Rather, a more reasonable solution is to consider a modified relocation plan accompanied by an assessment of the remaining polling locations in question.”

Offering to work with the schools to address their concerns, she added, “We respectfully ask the School Committee to re-evaluate their position on this matter, and consider a more balanced solution that would satisfy the greatest number of people.” In what she describes as a “thorough analysis of the issue,” Blodgett stressed the importance of making voting convenient for the public, suggesting that a “voting location remain as constant as possible, to avoid confusion and support voter turnout.”

Noting that the elimination of 10 school polling places would affect 18,000 voters and cost as much as $10,000, Blodgett argued, “In a typical election year, Election Day affects one school day and represents 6 hours out of our 13-hour day.”

The School Committee voted in the spring to consider removing voting from the schools. Member Brandi Carpenter cited the safety risk of having so many strangers coming and going. Further, she complained over the dangers of increased traffic, as well as the disruption, including roped-off facilities. Her colleagues have agreed that an opinion from City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski gives them the right to banish voting from the schools.

School Committee members point out that voting can take place multiple times each year, including for primaries, general elections and special elections.

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